Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Filtered Light at the Arboretum


7/30/21 Washington Park Arboretum

Just as we did for our first class, Kristin Frost’s last class in drawing trees with graphite met at the Washington Park Arboretum. For her demo, she asked if we had any specific requests, so I suggested the magical effect of light filtering through leaves. That kind of view would be difficult enough in color but would be even more challenging in monochrome. That sunny afternoon, the arboretum was full of examples everywhere, so it was easy for Kristin to pick any spot to draw. She focused immediately on establishing three main values before the light changed. Once these are put into a drawing quickly, we can take our time with subtler value changes in between the three to refine the drawing.

Capturing the lovely light coming through the leaves behind
the foreground tree was my interest in this view.
For my own drawing, I wanted to capture the filtered light that I had requested, and I quickly spotted an interesting composition with a nearly silhouetted tree in the foreground. I did as she had suggested and established the three main values quickly. 

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of finishing the easy parts first (like the foreground tree and the background light). By the time I got around to the much more challenging mid-range foliage (where all the filtered light was), I was running out of steam. (It was a hot afternoon last Friday – the temperature was near 90 by then – but tolerable in the deep shade of the arboretum’s many huge, old trees.) Just as when I’m urban sketching, once I leave the site, I can’t continue working on a sketch, even if I have a good photograph or memory to help. I lose my steam for the sketch, or maybe it’s more like I lose my heart for it. I probably won’t continue working on this one.

Regardless, I learned plenty from Kristin’s very enjoyable and inspiring class. I especially got much-needed practice in differentiating the foreground from the background and making compositional sense of a vast chaos of foliage. Although Kathleen Moore’s Zoom class in drawing trees was enormously informative in understanding tree anatomy and structure so that trees we draw look realistic, working from photos was limiting. Photos have already done the job of cropping and flattening the view to a manageable, 2-D rectangle. I needed being out in the seemingly endless field with the light changing every minute to push my drawing skills to a new level. I feel like I have more confidence now to tackle all kinds of trees and foliage from life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Model and Gas Works in Three Hues


7/29/21 Stephanie posing at Gas Works Park

Joining a plein air painters’ group again, I had the opportunity to sketch model Stephanie at Gas Work Park. Like last time, I warmed up with a couple of sketches that were about the equivalent of five-minute poses (though the pose remained the same for the entire session, as many of the artists are interested in portraiture).

Then I settled down for 20 minutes with – you guessed it! – the Caran d’Ache primary triad I have been playing with. My original intention was to blend some of the hues the way I did at the McMenamins Anderson School, but for life drawing, I sometimes find that activating watercolor pencils ends up looking too harsh, especially on the face. I really love the softness of dry materials when depicting the body. So instead of blending and activating, I tried a sort of color-block style.

I took advantage of the model’s 15-minute break to use the same triad to sketch some of the gas works in the distance. It’s fun and challenging to play cool against warm hues and simply push myself to not be so literal with color.

As excellent a model as Stephanie was, I was tired of the pose, so for the next 20-minute session, I sketched a different “model.”

Monday, August 2, 2021

Rip Visits Lake Union Park


7/30/21 South Lake Union from Lake Union Park

I had another Rip Van Winkle moment, this time at Lake Union Park, which I had last visited nearly two years ago. So many new buildings had popped up or been completed since then that it was disorienting. Thankfully, the Space Needle was still visible, but I wondered how much longer that would be true. Sketching with USk Seattle, I deliberately chose this view with new buildings obscuring it from this angle.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the sketch outing early to get to my class, so in the remaining time, I filled a couple of pages with quick gestures of sailboats. I’ve sketched boats on the lake before, but only as part of a larger scene. My goal with these was to simply capture their movement and varying angles as they went by. What fun!

Technical note: The crane scene was another opportunity for a primary triad experiment. This time, I went back to Supracolor’s Purplish Red (350) instead of the (apparently) same hue in the Museum Aquarelle line
(see this post for elaboration). I’m enjoying the brilliant harmony of this intense triad, even when I sometimes get surprising results. In addition, it’s efficient to grab only three pencils, especially when I’m short on time. Most of all, I appreciate being pushed out of my comfort zone of reality-based colors. If I focus on values, actual hues don’t matter much.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Anderson School Greenery


7/28/21 McMenamins Anderson School patio

The green oasis of McMenamins Anderson School turned out to be a challenging but rewarding opportunity to experiment with a primary triad again. USk Seattle has met at Anderson a couple of times now since the historic school building was turned into a hotel by the McMenamins chain. Both times, I shied away from the forest of foliage surrounding the large central dining patio. On Wednesday, however, when I met up with Roy and Kate there, the cool, dense shade was too inviting to resist. I decided to take on all that greenery head-on. I even opened up a full spread – something I rarely do anymore – to go big.

In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time making the shaded foreground foliage darker. I’m also still working on the balance between Lemon Yellow and Phthalocyanine Blue to get the green values I want, and I went a little easy on the intense Purplish Red, which tends to take over. Otherwise, though, I had fun working with this Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle primary triad again (the same one I had tried recently in the backyard).

Waiting for our lunch table was an ideal time for sketchwaiting.

Another mini sketch outing!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Triad Accompanied by Steller’s Jay


7/24/21 the backyard again

In my current explorations of primary triads based on the CMYK color model, I have lamented that my favorite Museum Aquarelle collection does not include a hue that corresponds to magenta. The closest I have found in the Caran d’Ache palette is Supracolor Purplish Red (350), which is certainly acceptable with Museum Aquarelle’s Lemon Yellow (240) and Phthalocyanine Blue (162) to complete the triad.

However, when I was comparing the five current Caran d’Ache water-soluble colored pencil lines, I made a curious discovery: Museum does include a color called Purplish Red with the same number 350, but it is entirely different from Supracolor’s! I never recognized it as the same hue as Supracolor’s because it’s a much darker shade, especially in its dry state. Wet, it’s quite a bit more intense – too intense, I thought, to mix well in the triad. But I’d never know for sure until I tried.

In the primary triad swatches below, the reference magenta color is shown at the top – Prismacolor Process Red (994). At left is the triad using Supracolor Purplish Red, and at right is the triad using Museum Aquarelle Purplish Red. The other two hues are the same in both triads.

The only difference between the two triads is the Supracolor and Museum Aquarelle Purplish Red (both 350). Prismacolor Process Red shown at top for reference.

The day after my frustrating sketch with the Lamy pencils, I needed to cleanse my palette, so to speak. I went out on the back deck again, and Museum’s Purplish Red was definitely intense. I like it, though, especially for this summer-bright scene.

Adding to my entertainment as I sketched was a Steller’s jay. I’ve been putting out in-shell peanuts while I’m out there. This piggy jay would stuff one down its gullet, then grab one more in its beak before flying off. A short time later, it would return and repeat – again and again until the peanuts were gone. It never stays long enough to sketch, but maybe I can capture a few quick gestures next time . . .

Sketch entertainment!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Caran d’Ache Water-Soluble Colored Pencil Comparison

In my ongoing quest to make historical sense of Caran d’Ache’s colored pencil lines, I’ve sometimes shown pigment comparisons between vintage and contemporary sets. I’ve also compared some contemporary lines in reviews. During a recent conversation, however, I realized I had never compared all the contemporary Caran d’Ache water-soluble lines in one place. This is as good a time as any to do so.

Above are Caran d’Ache’s five collections that are currently available and that I am aware of, ranked from lowest (Swisscolor) to highest (Museum Aquarelle) degree of pigment. (If I’m missing any, please do let me know!) Student-grade Swisscolor and Fancolor pencils do not include color numbers, but I tried to match the hues as closely as possible from the smallish sets I have. Prismalo and Supracolor lines were easiest to match with color numbers. The Museum line is narrower than Prismalo and Supracolor, but I matched the numbers when available and chose the closest hues when they were not.

I couldn’t fit all the swatches on one page, but they were all done in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook. My methodology was to apply three layers of dry pigment, then swipe each swatch with a waterbrush twice without scrubbing.

My only editorial commentary here is that I see no reason for Swisscolor to exist. Fancolor, which has a similar pigment level, is very slightly softer and is in a similar price range, is a perfectly adequate student-grade watercolor pencil. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Natalie at Red Arrow


7/26/21 Natalie sketching

Natalie, Ching and I enjoyed sketching on Red Arrow Coffee’s patio so much last week that we went back on Monday for more. In the direction my seat was facing, my sketching options were limited, but Natalie didn’t seem to mind about the subject I chose.

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